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  • Kathy O'Brien

Are You A Bad Listener?



How do I know if I’m a terrible listener?


And if I am a bad listener, how can I change it?



Sincere thanks to my colleague who hit me with these two difficult questions recently. I was preparing a presentation and looking forward to sharing our model for great listening, but realised it was important to address these in the session.


Her challenge forced me to think very practically about the topic – and thus create a much better talk. In this article I’ll share some excerpts on How do I know…?. We’ll take up tips for change in another.


In Short: Observe Yourself



Heighten your awareness. How are you behaving in conversations? How do you come across to others? For example…

  • What percentage of the talking are you doing?

  • When you aren’t talking, what are you doing? What’s your posture like? How about your facial expression? Are you sending unspoken signs of interest and focus? Do you seem like you are really thinking about the speaker’s words, or readying to speak?

  • Do you catch yourself interrupting? Do you carry on with your point, or apologise and encourage the other person to finish?

  • How often do you catch your mind wandering? Admit it – it’s human. How quickly do pull yourself back to listening?

  • Do you catch yourself faking attention? How often are you doing that?

  • When you relate a conversation to another, do you repeat what you said, or what you heard? Good listeners focus on what they heard.

  • Beware the match-snatch. You hear something you can connect to, and say ‘yes, I had a similar experience and here’s what I did’. On the surface that sounds like a match – similar experiences. But actually you have just snatched the conversation away from the other speaker and shifted it to your story.


Awareness is Step #1. If you’ve identified behaviours you’d like to change, you are absolutely capable of change. I’ll upload a few tips for that journey soon.

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